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Overpunctuate??? No!!!

If you use other people’s business writing as models, you may wonder whether it is acceptable to use double or triple question marks and exclamation marks. After all, you have probably seen examples like this one: I love the new offices!!!

Is it acceptable to use two, three, or more punctuation marks in a row for emphasis? Choose your answer.

a. Yes!!!

b. No.

c. Sometimes??

In business writing, it is unnecessary and usually silly to double up on punctuation such as question marks and exclamation points. It takes more key strokes, and it conveys no additional information or emotion.

Yes! shows enthusiasm and decisiveness. Yes!!! shows excessive punctuation. It looks as though it should be pronounced as a squeal.

Why? expresses a straightforward question. Why???? expresses whiny desperation.

Of course, I am talking about business writing among adults. If you are a 12-year-old writing a diary, several punctuation marks in a row are probably appropriate for nearly all your sentences. That is what your life is like, right???!!!

You now have my opinion. Please tell me what you think.

As you have probably guessed, my answer to the question above is b. No.

Other search spellings: exlacmation, exlamtion, exclamaion, quesiton, quistion, queston, puncutation, punctaution, buisness, wiritng, wirting

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By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English.

One comment on “Overpunctuate??? No!!!”

  • I could not agree more!!! (Oops.) My 12 year-old daughter uses more exclamation marks than letters in most of her emails.

    In business writing, I see over-punctuation as akin to ALL CAPS. It’s overkill and annoying. (And yet, I have been guilty of this sin, myself, so thanks for the reminder, Lynn.)

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